Things to consider as a Product Manager
Make sure the team know their responsibilities
As the Product Manager, it is important that each member of the team takes responsibility for delivering an accessible service.
Everyone on the team has a role to play to make sure accessibility is considered and implemented at every phase of the project.
Often, there is a misconception that accessibility is a technical requirement and only affects developers and testers, but this is simply not true.
Make sure accessibility is covered in ceremonies such as sprint planning and sprint review, so the team know what considerations they must make and whether the delivered feature meets the standards.
Make sure stakeholders are informed
Accessibility is often an expense which is not considered until it’s too late.
It takes time to develop and test for accessibility, and you may need an external audit before you can go into public beta. These time constraints and expenses will need to be communicated to stakeholders throughout the process so that it’s part of their expectations.
Make sure accessibility is budgeted for in both time and money, and does not simply get forgotten about.
Plan for accessibility
Before anything can go live it needs to WCAG 2.1 compliant or you’ll be breaking the law. This includes your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You can’t go live and implement accessibility at a later date.
When estimating how long something will take to build, you will need to factor in sufficient accessibility testing. It should include automated testing, manual testing against the WCAG criteria, and usability testing using assistive technology.
When doing releases, it is also important that the accessibility statement is updated. This needs to reflect when the service was last tested and any potential barriers that have been found or fixed.
If you do not plan for accessibility then it could create large amounts of technical debt and could significantly delay your releases.
Any team will develop it’s own culture overtime. It’s beliefs and priorities will be moulded by the way things get done from week to week.
If you de-prioritise accessibility then it becomes acceptable to the team to keep doing so, because it’s easier. As the Product Manager you need to ensure this does not happen.
By prioritising accessibility from the very start, it just becomes part of the culture of the team, and part of the process. This will allow you to deliver at pace and meet your legislative requirements, rather than accessibility becoming a bottleneck or a blocker.
Understand the risks
As a Product Manager you need to understand the risks of building a service which is not accessible.
If your service is not accessible, then you won’t be able to pass a Beta assessment. But even worse, if you put a service live and it non-compliant, the service can be reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
As the Enforcement Body the Equality and Human Rights commission has the power to issue enforcement notices, do investigations and even take court action against the department.